A bill that would expand 4-year-old kindergarten to all
at-risk children in South Carolina advanced at the Statehouse Wednesday, after a
state Senate education subcommittee passed it by a vote of 6 to
"Right now, there is only a partial 4K program in
specific counties that came from a lawsuit that was filed by districts in South
Carolina," says Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden, sponsor of the bill. "And the
idea here is it's time to transform early childhood education in South
North Carolina and Georgia already have statewide 4K
How much would the expansion cost taxpayers?
cost less than $100 million and, to put that in perspective, South Carolina had
almost a billion dollars of increased, surplus revenue last year, so you don't
have to raise taxes to do it," Sen. Sheheen says. "You have to just say early
childhood education is a priority, and it should be a
But state education superintendent Dr. Mick Zais is
against the plan.
His spokesman Jay W. Ragley told senators on the education
subcommittee, "He does not support mandatory universal 4K. Now this bill isn't
mandatory, but it is moving towards universal.
And the reason he doesn't support
mandatory universal 4K is the research is mixed, at best, on the results of a
Two recent federal studies, of what many consider to be the
gold standard in early childhood education is the Head Start program, have shown
that, by third grade, the effects of a 4-year-old intervention wash
The state's own study, by the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee, of SC's 4-year-old
kindergarten pilot program showed mixed results. Looking at state PASS test
scores, students who were in the 4K program had lower achievement levels than
those who did not have 4K.
But when comparing the 4K students to other students
who qualified for free or reduced-price lunch but did not have 4K, the 4K
students had higher achievement levels.
Sen. Sheheen says, "The overwhelming amount of studies
throughout the country, and the evidence in Georgia and in North Carolina, show
that it helps long-term if we invest in early childhood
According to the Center for Public Education,
in Georgia, 82 percent of former participants in the state's pre-kindergarten
program had higher third grade readiness than students who did not have pre-K.
It also cites South Carolina's smaller pre-K program.
Before the program, 60
percent of children tested as being ready for first grade. By 1998, that figure
had risen to 81